Currently browsing the archives for July 2006

Older Posts »


Marc Lynch is right, as usual. “[C]hildren and wife must be showered with unending hours of love and devotion.” Very true.


Bubble Back?

Does this mean that the internet bubble is back?

Start up company needs experienced web page designer to make our page. Send resumes to 09cks or 09rso.

What start up company is this? Perhaps EphBlog can get in on the first round of funding . . . Someone call Bo Peabody at Village Ventures.


Frank Grant, The Hall Of Fame, and Williamstown

The Boston Globe has a feature on Western Massachusetts native Frank Grant, one of the African American inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame today. Grant lived in Williamstown for about ten years, and his family made their way largely through town-gown links to the college.


Fuller ’52, RIP

Vince Fuller, Navy veteran and father of my fellow Marine Tony Fuller ’89, has passed away.

Vincent J. Fuller, a leading Washington lawyer who successfully defended would-be presidential assassin John W. Hinckley Jr., has died. He was 75.

Fuller, who lived in Bethesda, Md., died Wednesday of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in a suburban Maryland hospice.

The lawyer defended a wide range of notable figures, including boxer Mike Tyson, boxing promoter Don King and financier Michael Milken.

But Fuller was best known for his successful representation of Hinckley, who shot President Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent and a policeman outside a Washington hotel March 30, 1981. Retained within hours of the shooting, Fuller built his defense on Hinckley’s mental state.

Fuller said Hinckley was delusional and obsessed with actress Jodie Foster.

In his closing argument, he told the jury, “In his own mind, the defendant had two compelling reasons to do what he did: to terminate his own existence and to accomplish his ideal union with Jodie Foster, whether in this world or the next.

“I submit these are the acts of a totally irrational individual.”

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity on all 13 charges.

Fuller had little to say immediately after the verdict. His only comment was, “Another day, another dollar.”

Fuller’s survivors include his wife of 48 years, Beatrice; five children; 13 grandchildren; and a sister.

A life well-lived. The New York Times claims

Mr. Fuller, noted for his representation of high-profile defendants, including the former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson and the boxing promoter Don King, was a senior partner in the powerful Washington law firm Williams & Connolly. His college teacher and mentor, Edward Bennett Williams, was a founder of the firm in 1967.

I do not think that Edward Bennett Williams ever taught at Williams College. Three of Fuller’s other children are also Ephs: Kenwyn ’82, Beatrice ’83 and Allison ’85. If you only have time to read one obituary, go with the Washington Post’s.

Mr. Fuller’s most memorable trial came in his defense of Hinckley, who shot President Ronald Reagan, press secretary James Brady and two law officers at the Washington Hilton on March 30, 1981. Within two hours of the shooting, Mr. Fuller had been asked to take the case. Over the next year, he shaped an insanity defense that has entered legal annals as one of the finest courtroom performances of modern time.

Lon Babby, a Williams & Connolly lawyer who assisted Mr. Fuller on the case, said, “His closing argument was extraordinarily powerful, so powerful that Hinckley became emotional in the courtroom.”

The argument is one of 15 featured in “Classics of the Courtroom,” a set of transcripts of famous legal cases.

But is this the lesson that the rest of us should draw from Fuller’s life, that we should all strive to success and even fame in our chosen fields? Perhaps. Yet I’ll choose some different lessons.

He graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts, then served two years as a Navy officer — “Undoubtedly, those were the two most important years of my life,” he later said.

If you’re a current Williams student and these words strike home for you, then go join the Marine Corps. It will be one of the best decisions you ever make.

Mr. Fuller, who could be warm and jovial outside the courtroom, always encouraged younger lawyers to spend time with their families. He coached his children’s soccer teams and was a member of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Potomac. He was a student of history in his spare time.

I’ll be coaching both Michaela and Casandra’s soccer teams this coming fall, as a I did last year. No doubt my professional work would go better if I spent more time on it, but that is a shallow concern. Life is too short not to spend every available moment with your children and your parents. If I can be half the father than Vince Fuller was to his family, then I will be a successful Eph indeed.

Condolences to all.


Fat Toad

Great article on Yankee owner George Steinbrenner ’52. Highlights included:

It’s another June evening in baseball and the Boston Red Sox are visiting New York for the latest showdown with their archenemy, the Yankees. As it is at every meeting between the teams, the stadium is packed and crackling with energy.

Few in the stands, though, notice that the man perhaps most responsible for the revival of their rivalry is not there. George Steinbrenner, the principal owner of the Yankees and the man New Yorkers love to hate, now watches more games at his home in Tampa, Fla., than he does in his private box above home plate.

Although he is 76 and noticeably slower than he was when he took over the Yankees 33 years ago, Mr. Steinbrenner remains, according to those who know and work with him, deeply involved in the Yankees operation. Despite rumors that failing health has shrunk his ambition, the Boss, as he is known to all in baseball, is pushing all of his employees to try to win championships — and spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to accomplish it.

Yankees fans and the city’s news media, never warm and fuzzy about outsiders, initially greeted Mr. Steinbrenner’s arrival with skepticism. He professed admiration for the Yankees, talking about how as a child he could not wait for the team to visit Cleveland, his hometown, to play the Indians. He also promised to take a back seat, leaving the running of the team to others.

But he quickly did an about-face, bringing in his own people to run things, involving himself in every aspect of the club’s operations and alienating employees, players and fans. He publicly lambasted his managers and players — serially hiring and firing Billy Martin as manager in the 1970’s and 80’s, for example. The ranting went on for decades; in 1999, he called a pitcher, Hideki Irabu, a “fat toad.”

Buster Olney, a former sportswriter for The New York Times, summed up the Boss’s management style in his book, “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty”: “George Steinbrenner would never entrust his team to God. That would mean giving up too much control. Instead, the Yankees’ owner audited the team from moment to moment, like a caffeinated rent-a-cop monitoring a Wal-Mart through security cameras.”

Ouch. Steinbrenner was a DKE, like our own Frank Uible ’59 and David H.T. Kane ’58. Steinbrenner was been a faithful donor to Williams for many years, but I am sure that the alumni development office hopes that his estate planning keeps Williams in mind.


Morgan Hall renovation

Several days ago, David begged for Williams photos, so here are some. These will be of particular interest to all of the rising seniors who picked into Morgan for next year, when their future rooms did not even exist yet.


This is Morgan Hall as seen from Spring Street. There are other views in the extended entry.

Read more



Dan Drezner ’90, still the most popular of Eph bloggers, reports on the collapse of the Doha round of world trade talks. I wonder what Drezner’s take is on the performance of chief US Trade Negotiator Susan Schwab ’76. Not everyone on the web is a Schwab fan, or a fan of global trade agreements at all.

Almost no living American has wracked up more experience making trade policy than Susan Schwab, the new U.S. Trade Representative. Her first job in the field was with consummate Washington wheeler-dealer Robert Strauss, who served as the nation’s chief trade negotiator under Jimmy Carter. (Schwab was too junior to deserve blame for the Carter-Strauss decision to permit Japan to dump America’s consumer electronics industry into the grave.)

Yet judging from some of her first comments after being nominated, it’s clear that few Americans have learned less than Schwab about U.S. trade policy and why it’s been pushing the nation rapidly towards insolvency and de-industrialization.

What President Bush and President Clinton before him have really wanted are low-wage production sites from which U.S. multinational companies can supply the U.S. market – which, unlike Vietnam or Peru and America’s other new third world trade partners, still contains consumers wealthy enough to buy this output. In other words, most of America’s recent trade agreements haven’t been trade agreements at all but outsourcing agreements.

So far, the result has been to push U.S. trade deficits and cumulative deficits to dizzying heights (and increasingly to encourage the foreign purchase of tangible American assets as well as Treasury notes). The willingness of protectionist, export-dependent foreign governments has filled the financial gap created by their own stripping of U.S. productive and earnings capacity.

Eventually, the result will be (1) a protracted nosedive in American living standards as these same governments lose faith in U.S. creditworthiness and start to flee the dollar, followed by (2) an equally severe global downturn as the world discovers that America is irreplaceable as its importer and thus growth engine of last resort.

Consequently, it’s difficult to know which interpretation of Ambassador Schwab’s recent remarks is more troubling: That she rejects this entirely conventional economic analysis; or that she accepts it but plans on leading the nation farther down this path and blaming the messengers for the bad news all the way.

Not sure if Professor Ralph Bradburd would describe this as “entirely conventional economic analysis,” but it’s been 20 years since he taught me economics. Perhaps I need to brush up on my reading!


Eph Bear Encounter

This is a pretty hilarious story featuring Sabrina Oei of the great class of ’97. The message to all bears out there: it may look meek, but don’t mess with the purple cow.

(Thanks to Dave Nickerson for the tip).


DC MeetUp

The new first years are now posting to WSO.

I’m going to start at Williams this fall and right now I’m staying in the Washington DC area. I was wondering if any other new students in the area would like to get together sometime before going up to Williams. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll set something up.

Good stuff. The more time that first years spend getting to know each other, and other students, the better for all concerned. It is amazing how much more of an opportunity first years have to communicate with each other than we did back in the day. Here is a report on Facebook usage an UNC. I wonder what the figures would be for Williams. There is a great senior thesis to be written about this.



Diana Davis ’07 seems to be having a fun time teaching math this summer. She reports:

We had a problem in geometry a few days ago that involved saying whether something was an acute triangle or an obtuse triangle. This is an easy problem, because if one of the angles is greater than 90 degrees, you say “obtuse,” and if none of the angles is greater than 90 degrees, you say “acute,” and if two of the angles are greater than 90 degrees, you say “get back to plane geometry.”

This problem got me to thinking: what are there more of, acute triangles or obtuse triangles? Which naturally led me to wonder: what is the ratio of acute triangles to obtuse triangles?

Now, one way you could do the problem would be to make a “simplification” like say that the angles have to be whole numbers, and then count. But then you’d have to do a lot of counting, and you’d get all confused with the right triangles. So this would be a bad way to solve the problem.

The way I decided to solve the problem was to imagine that the first angle is plotted on the x-axis, the second angle is plotted on the y-axis, and the third angle is plotted on the z-axis. Then your x, y, and z values can all range between 0 and 180, but with the constraint that x+y+z=180. This is the equation of a plane that intersects the axes at (180,0,0), (0,180,0), and (0,0,180), respectively.

Interesting stuff, but a diagram would be very nice. Perhaps Brent Yorgey ’04 can chime in. Diana also

realized recently how much free time we have here — unless we have duty, we have all of Wednesday afternoon free, and Saturday afternoon and almost all of Sunday. So I could go somewhere even if it wasn’t my weekend off. For example, I could up and decide to go to Williamstown, you know, tomorrow.

Or you could post some pictures of Williams. Having tricked all of your EphBlog fans into addiction, you owe us a couple of summer-time fixes. Don’t make us beg!


Eph Parent for Senator

Why not?

“I’ve got people who believe in me, and I’ve got a copy machine. I’m ready.”

Now, all state Rep. Diana S. Urban, R-Dist. 43, North Stonington needs is 7,500 signatures by Aug. 8 to be a contender in the race for the U.S Senate seat from Connecticut.

Good luck to the mother of Alex Urban ’04.

Urban said her decision to pursue the required petition signatures so she can make the run is a “real, true grassroots effort.”

“Why do I want this? I’m against the war, yes, but it’s not a simple issue,” she said.

“The problem is it’s a mistake we make over and over. We don’t learn. We never should have gone into Iraq – like Iran, Afghanistan, Vietnam. But we’re there now,” she said. “It seems like it’s a move – and always has been for some – to get re-elected.

Not go into Afghanistan? That’s an interesting point of view! Is there a single United States Senator who now thinks that bombing/invading Afghanistan was a bad idea? I don’t think so. Clearly, Urban’s voice needs to be heard in the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.


Parker ’65 for Vermont Governor

Why not?

One thing is abundantly clear about Scudder Parker, a Democratic candidate for governor: He is all about energy. He knows energy policy better than most, and during an interview with the Banner last month, he fervently outlined where he believes Vermont has gone wrong and where it can improve.
The former state senator from Caledonia County is running against popular Republican incumbent, Gov. James Douglas. But Parker doesn’t seem fazed, and with his aggressive approach to campaigning, appears prepared to offer Douglas his most challenging campaign yet.

Parker grew up on a farm in the Northeast Kingdom, where he said he learned the value of working hard. Although not a native Vermonter, he’s lived here for just about all of his life.

Read the whole thing. An ambitious student should join Parker’s campaign right now and write a thesis or independent study on “The Making of the Governor 2006.” As long as you didn’t publish until after the election, I’d bet that Parker would let you tag along and see everything. Take lots of video as well.

Why read history books when you have the chance to dive into the arena?


Student Investment Club?

Would this be a good idea at Williams?

Once an anomaly, student-run investment funds are taking off as a teaching tool everywhere from the University of Texas at Austin to Cornell University. As recently as the early 1990s, there were about 30 such funds but they now number more than 200, according to the Association of Student Managed Investment Programs at Stetson University in Florida, formed to coordinate efforts among funds such as these about five years ago.

Perhaps. This is something that I and other Ephs in finance would probably be willing to help out with. The College wouldn’t want to devote any meaningful amount of its endowment to this exercise, but the students involved would learn a lot with only [! — ed.] a million dollars to invest. I suspect that the economics department — with little interest in most of the jobs that its majors go on to after graduation — would be unwilling to get involved, although I would be eager to be proved wrong.



Mike Needham ’04, recently appointed Director of the Asian Study Center at The Heritage Foundation, writes on China’s ‘Time for Choosing’.

China’s latest United Nations veto threat should convince even the most generous diplomat that Beijing is part of the problem in North Korea, not a “partner” in a solution. If it ever hopes to get a solution, Washington should now make Beijing’s policy toward North Korea a vital test of China’s ability and desire to be a “responsible stakeholder” in the international system. Specifically, the United States should insist on the introduction of the Japanese draft Chapter VII resolution proposing sanctions against North Korea for noncompliance and allow China to use its veto, if it follows through on its threat. Forcing a veto would clear the air and reset the issue for policy-makers and diplomats.

I wonder what Professor Sam Crane thinks about Heritage’s approach to US-China relations. Longtime readers will recall that Sam and Mike have discussed US policy in Asia in the past.


Garfield Reconsidered

If you are like me (pity for you) you know little about the life and career of James Garfield beyond the received wisdom that all good Ephs garner in the form of trivia-cum-school-pride. One among that faceless clutter of Gilded Age presidents, assassinated too soon to leave a mark on the nation, Garfield has seeped as deeply into historical anonymity as someone who once served in the highest office possibly can. As alums of Williams we can add a little bit to his biography if Garfield comes up in conversation — “he was assassinated on his way to an alumni reunion at Williams!” we can helpfully add when the twentieth president comes up as a topic of discussion — but seriously, how often does that happen? I’m a professional historian, albeit not of the Gilded Age, and I knew little beyond the rudiments before today.

My guess is that few of you are inclined to dig deep into the library to find the latest Garfield scholarship. But Times Books has a useful series, edited by the estimable Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., “The American Presidents.” The books are short and readable, geared toward a broad audience (well, as broad an audience as biographies of most presidents are likely to receive), but not without merit for students and scholars. Ira Rutkow, clinical professor of surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and an accomplished scholar of medical history, has written James A. Garfield for the series. Because of its accessibility, brevity, and readability, it is worth the space on your bookshelf.

The section on Garfield’s time at Williams is of necessity brief, but it reveals how important his time in Williamstown was to the future president’s development. Mark Hopkins plays a prominent role during Garfield’s tenure at the school (truncated not, as some legends have it, simply because he did not graduate, but rather because he had spent two years at what would later become Hiram College in Ohio before heading to the Purple Valley and graduating from the college in August 1856) and fingered Garfield for future greatness. The burly Ohioan was renowned as the finest debater not only of his, but perhaps of any era at Williams. He also served as chief editor of the literary magazine Williams Quarterly, was president of the school’s litarary club (the Philologian Society), was involved with the Theological Society, took leading roles in both the campus anti-secret society and the anti-fraternity faction, and won class salutatorian. On his graduation day he gave the college’s “Metaphysical Oration,” a high honor. (See p. 9.)

Garfield quickly rose to prominence in politics, first in Ohio, then, after an interregnum in which he served as a General in the Union Army, at the national level — it was at Williams that the theretofore disengaged Garfield took an interest in politics. Garfield eventually reached the highest ranks of government during an era in which the Republican Party was deeply divided.

Unsurprisingly, Rutkow is at his best in dealing with the medical issues surrounding Garfield’s utterly avoidable death at the hands of Charles Guiteau, well known to those conversant in the thumbnail sketch as a “frustrated office seeker,” but who was also reacting to the divide within the Grand Old Party. Rutkow shows how a combination of negligence, hubris, and ignorance led to Garfield’s death seventy-nine days after he took two bullets in the train station from which he was to head to Williams.

Garfield today hovers in the marginalia of American history, yet at the time his death was seen as a tragic loss to the Republic. Americans deeply mourned his death. Songs were written. (Johnny Cash sings a song devoted to Charlie Guiteau that I assume originates from the era.) Garfield’s tenure and subsequent assassination can be qualified as one of those great “what ifs?” in American history.

Rutkow’s book also, perhaps, will allow Williams folks to feel a bit more pride about our one contribution to the center of executive power on Pennsylvania Avenue (perhaps I am especially sensitive to this issue because, as a New Hampshire native, I am also shackled to Franklin Pierce, who was undoubtedly a failure as President). One of Garfield’s sons, Harry, would serve a long tenure as President of Williams; another, James, would serve as Secretary of the Interior under Teddy Roosevelt (indeed, his sacking in favor of a far less conservationally inclined successor would prove to be one of the reasons for the demise of William Howard Taft in the eyes of Progressives). But Garfield’s premature death does not place him in the category of failed presidencies, but rather of ones cut tragically short.


Reflections upon Emergent Events

“Origin” Title: “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions”

Summary of the Argument as it stands Today: (Introduction follows)

[[Again– I remind– you are describing an alien process– new events on the stage of human affairs. Arendt (citing the sophists): we travel into history walking backwards; these events are still at the far periphery of our vision.]]


Observers of Mexico’s electoral process have been attentive to the developments since July 2nd and many of them were also well informed of developments in the months running up to the election.

As public manifestation against the lack of transparency in this election grows and as AMLO’s coalition has demanded a ballot-by-ballot count in order to eliminate all doubts, observers demand to know the evidence against this election.

Evidence casting doubts that this was a clean election has flowed and continues to flow since the evening of July 2nd. Here is a summary of this evidence so far:

(1) The IFE failed to name a likely winner on the night of the election, even though it’s calculations had Felipe Calderón (FC) ahead of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) by 1% of the vote, a respectable 400,000 vote figure, given that the PREP count system was established with the presumption of a margin of error of 0.03 percent.
(2) On July 3rd, the IFE admitted that this difference had narrowed to 0.6%, because of the inclusion of results from a large number of voting stations left out of the original PREP count. This occurred only after AMLO had objected that such voting stations still not being counted.
(3) There were 283,448 less votes reported as cast for President (from any party) than reported for senatorial positions. In many ‘adjacent’ voting stations (“contiguas” in the IFE’s parlance), there no votes were reported as cast for President at all.
(4) In states where AMLO was leading, the difference between votes reported for senatorial positions and for President was the largest (in favour of senatorial ballots) and this discrepancy harmed AMLO. In states where Felipe Calderon was leading, the difference between reported votes for senatorial positions and those for president were the largest (in favour of Presidential votes) and this favouredof Felipe Calderon. The extremes were in Tabasco (96,450 votes less for President) and Nuevo León (41,290 votes more for President). In the six states where AMLO led, votes for president were less than those for senator by 313,882. In states where Felipe Calderon led, ballots for President outnumbered those for senators by 111,178.
(5) After the PREP, [[AWK & unclear] the next stage of the electoral process was the count by district]], which involved a count of tally sheets in all 300 districts. [In this process…,] councils are authorized to open ballot boxes for a manual recount of votes [under… [what limited conditions: “a majority vote of…”]]. AMLO’s coalition demanded that 50,000 boxes be opened on the grounds of irregularities visible to varying degrees. District councils only authorized the opening of 2,700 boxes. This ‘manual recount’ gave AMLO an additional 102,000 votes.

Read more



What is the coolest Eph website that you haven’t been to? ThoughtCast, by Jenny Attiyeh ’87. (Thanks to Sean Denniston ’87 for the tip.)

Welcome to ThoughtCast, a podcast and public radio interview program on authors, academics and intellectuals. I’m Jenny Attiyeh. ThoughtCast offers something that is glaringly absent from the media today: a bridge between the publications and pursuits of the intellectual world and a curious, informed, mainstream audience.

By providing detailed, unhurried and personal conversation with current writers and thinkers, ThoughtCast is that rare hybrid: a show that is both informative and entertaining – a synergy between mass media and the ivory tower. Think of it as “Terry Gross comes to Harvard.”

Interesting. But where is the Eph undergraduate who wants to do the same thing for Williams? Matt Piven ’07 can’t do everything himself! And he still doesn’t podcast . . .


Voting? Yes. Democracy? Not at All.

Journalist: “I’ve never seen a political race end like this, but it has just happened.”
Z: “I’ve seen a lot of elections, Gaius, most honest, a few fakes, and you can always tell the fixed ones, because they don’t make sense. And this doesn’t make sense.”
— Ron Moore script (aired 3/10/06 in UK)

What a wonderful and prescient explanation, of the experiences of July 3rd, 2006. Would that I had viewed Ron’s work, prior to its later distribution in the United States.

James K. Galbraith saved me a great deal of effort and anxiety earlier today, by publishing, in clear words, Doing Maths in Mexico, a far better explication of events than I had come to. (To be fair to myself, I had only begun to assemble datasets from election results, have many more internal documents confusing my perspective, and spent much of last night writing about the significance of Mexico’s teetering democratic experiment to our own).

Galbraith begins:

The election was stolen. It’s not in doubt. Colin Powell admits it. The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute both admit it. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana – a Republican – was emphatic: there had been “a concerted and forceful program of election-day fraud and abuse”; he “had heard” of employers telling their workers how to vote; yet he had also seen the fire of the resisting young, “not prepared to be intimidated”.

In Washington, Zbigniew Brzezinski has demanded that the results be set aside and a new vote taken, under the eye – no less – of the United Nations. In The New York Times, Steven Lee Myers decried “the use of government resources on behalf of loyal candidates and the state’s control over the media” – factors, he said, were akin to practices in “Putin’s Russia”.

and Galbraith ends with words almost as strong as my own:

[F]or those of us outside Mexico, we must decide where we stand: with democracy … or quietly on the sidelines?

I, of course, do not stand outside of Mexico, nor on the “sidelines,” but with those who march to defend democracy’s name, and its meaning, in the streets of Mexico. As an American, with the people of Mexico, I also consider Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador “my President,” and the hope and symbol of our common future.
Galbraith continues by outlining the problems of the July 2nd election:

Read more


Cities of the 21st Century

Frequent EphBlog commentator Webb Collings ’75 writes:

Thought you might be interested in a study abroad program two Eph juniors are doing next fall.

It’s called Cities of the 21st Century and involves a group of 25 students from various colleges and universities plus several faculty travelling to four of the world’s largest cities. Academically, the program involves four courses, all related to aspects of rapid globalization and urbanization — economics & politics, sociology, urban planning, and urban ecology. In each city, the group lives with local families, does field visits, and studies with local academic, government, business, and NGO officials.

The itinery starts at the International House at Columbia in NYC for a week. Then, moves to Buenos Aires for 5 weeks. Then, to Beijing for 3 weeks. Shanghai for 2 weeks. And, finally Bangalore, India for 5 weeks. You might say it’s the “Amazing Race” study abroad semester. Sixty five hours in airplanes.

Next fall’s group includes students from Williams, Swarthmore, Wellesley, Vasser, Barnard, Penn, Berkeley, BU, and Harvard among others. I know that both Williams and Swarthmore have been sending a student or two annually on this and other similar programs for quite a few years now.

Great stuff. It would be fun to have these Ephs do an EphBlog Diary about their experiences.


Counting Noses: The Details

The process of racial classification at Williams is endlessly fascinating (see here, here and here). In a previous thread, I was struck by this comment from fellow EphBlog author Reed Wiedower ’00.

As I pointed out during Winter Study, I’m still curious as to why the college keeps lying about the racial question.

Many people my year refused to answer the question, especially those of mixed heritage. Many so called “whites” were equally dismissive of it.

I think that removing oneself from racial aggregate data is statistically a good move. Why? Because it forces the administration to take a look behind the numbers at what is going on.

I should have challenged Reed at the time on his use of word “lying.” First, there is the issue of the anthropomorphizing the “college” — a sin of which I am regularly guilty. The college doesn’t lie (or talk or tell the truth). Individuals at the College do. Second, the honest and hard-working Ephs at the College who are actually responsible for these statistics are doing the best that they can given the constraints that they face.

In fact, Chris Winters ’95, Director of Institutional Research (and the man whose name appears on these documents), was kind enough to explain the mechanics of what happens. Endless details below the break.

Winters writes:

Like all colleges and universities Williams is required to submit reports to the government via the IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) system. Below is probably more than you ever wanted to know on the subject, pasted from the IPEDS website .

Method of collection – The manner of collecting racial/ethnic information is left to the discretion of the institution provided that the system which is established results in reasonably accurate data, which may be replicated by others when the same documented system is utilized. One acceptable method is a properly controlled system of post-enrollment self-identification by students. If a self-identification method is utilized, a verification procedure to ascertain the completeness and accuracy of student submissions should be employed.

Assignment to categories – For the purpose of this report, a student may be included in the group to which he or she appears to belong, identifies with, or is regarded in the community as belonging. However, no person may be counted in more than one racial/ethnic group. Racial/ethnic designations are requested only for United States citizens, resident aliens, and other eligible non-citizens. (See definitions below.)

Racial/ethnic descriptions – Racial/ethnic designations as used in this survey do not denote scientific definitions of anthropological origins. The categories are:

  • a. Black, non-Hispanic – A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa (except those of Hispanic origin).
  • b. American Indian/Alaska Native – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.
  • c. Asian/Pacific Islander – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, or Pacific Islands. This includes people from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, American Samoa, India, and Vietnam.
  • d. Hispanic – A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central, or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
  • e. White, non-Hispanic – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East (except those of Hispanic origin).

Other descriptive categories

  • a. Nonresident alien – A person who is not a citizen or national of the United States and who is in this country on a visa or temporary basis and does not have the right to remain indefinitely. NOTE – Nonresident aliens are to be reported separately in the places provided, rather than in any of the five racial/ethnic categories described above.
  • b. Race/ethnicity unknown – This category is used ONLY if the student did not select a racial/ethnic designation, AND the postsecondary institution finds it impossible to place the student in one of the aforementioned racial/ethnic categories during established enrollment procedures or in any post-enrollment identification or verification process.

    As you can see from the last paragraph the government is clear that use of the “unknown” category is to be considered a last resort and not used as a convenient punt.

    At Williams the racial classification begins with the box that is checked by the student on their common application for admission. Most students will self-designate at this point. A small number do not and some will choose multiple boxes. Once students matriculate, the Registrar’s office makes every effort to assign that matriculant to one of the race classifications as defined above. Students are given the final say however, in that the Registrar’s office then contacts every student informing them of the racial assignment they have on file, and explaining the IPEDS requirement for racial assignment, and the official definitions of those race classifications (as above). The student is asked to inform the Registrar if they wish to change the classification to which they have been assigned. In practice, very few students request changes.

    This is the process used at Williams. This process has been designed to achieve the best results given the sometime competing objectives of:

    • maximizing compliance with IPEDS
    • maximizing data accuracy
    • minimizing student discontent
    • minimizing administrative burden

    Thanks to Chris for taking the time to clarify these issues. Comments:

    1) It is a pleasure to interact with someone like Chris who takes the time and trouble to explain things to interested alumni. Although many/most college officials (Dick Nesbitt, Jim Kolesar, Jo Proctor, to name just a few) are similarly helpful, not all are.

    2) It seems to clear to me from the above that the College is not “lying” about anything. People like Chris are doing the best they can given the constraints that they face.

    3) It would be interesting to learn more details about how the office of the registrar “makes every effort to assign that matriculant to one of the race classifications as defined above.” We have at least one description of this process from Jonathan Landsman ’05.

    Early freshman year, I received a letter from the Admissions Office. It stated that I had declared myself a minority on my application, specifically Puerto Rican. It asked if I still wanted to be considered so, and if not, to contact them and say otherwise.

    Sounds like the Admissions Office does its best to classify people and then passes the baton to the registrar. But how, exactly, does the registrar have a classification “on file” if the student did not check any boxes on the Common Application or if she checked more than one? On the one hand, the “best” description — or at least the most sociologically accurate one — for any student who checks white and some other box is probably white. So, perhaps the Registrar/Admissions Office puts all such multi-box checkers in the white category. On the other hand, there is a lot of pressure on the College do be as diverse as possible, so why not minimize the use of the white box by following a policy of classifying students in the most diversity-increasing manner possible?

    4) I have no opinion on what is the “right” answer here. I just want to better understand how the process works. If a students checks both the Asian and white boxes (as my daughters might) on the Common Application, what happens at Williams?

    5) It would be great fun if a member of the class of 2010 were to make trouble about all of this, either for ideological or entertainment reasons. Surely, there are a couple of Young Republicans out there! Simply insist to the Registrar that you want to be categorized as “Race/ethnicity unknown.” Demand that the College supply evidence for any other classification that it might want to make. Inform the Registrar (in writing!) that you will be checking the College’s common data set to ensure that your classification is correct.

    6) There is an interesting Record article to be written about this topic. Who will write it?


    Kubal ’10

    Nice article on future Eph volleyball player Chelsea Kubal ’10.

    No one has made a bigger impact than Chelsea Kubal. A four-year volleyball, basketball and soccer player, Kubal was a key component in the renaissance of Crystal Springs athletics during the last four years. This past school year, she helped lead the Gryphons’ volleyball team to its first North Coast Section title, was the glue that kept the basketball team together and was one of the soccer team’s anchors that helped lead the Gryphons to the NCS Division III championship game for the first time in school history.

    For her efforts, Kubal is the Daily Journal’s 2006 Female Athlete of the Year.



    Child ’06 to France

    Hockey in France.

    Recent Williams graduate Kevin Child ’06 (South Burlington, VT) has signed a contract to play professional ice hockey with A.S.G. Tours. Des Diables Noirs of Tours competes in the French First Division.

    Child, a four-year letterman, captain and forward in ice hockey also lettered in tennis for the Ephs, will leave for Tours in early August. Tours is a “college town” of about 300,000 located one hour south of Paris in the Loire Valley.

    Whit Stoddard ’35, expert on French cathedrals and Eph hockey fan (and player) would be pleased.


    Sun Valley

    Unfortunately, EphBlog’s invitation to Herb Allen’s ’62 Sun Valley conferenece of media and financial bigwigs was lost in the mail. Again! So, we’ll just have to follow the goings on via the NYT Dealbook Blog. Maybe next year . . .

    UPDATE: No wonder we weren’t invited.

    We’re told by some of the guests that participants are banned from blogging the invitation-only Allen & Co. mogul fest, which count among the invited not one but at least four startups that threaten traditional media business models.

    “They told me I couldn’t blog-I don’t know what to do,” attendee Martin Varsavsky, CEO of FON, told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference this week. “A hundred thousand people read my blog. I blogged Davos.”

    Varsavsky added, “I’m desperate.”

    I know the feeling.

    Trvia question: Are there any other Ephs besides Allen at the conference? I don’t recognize any in this listing.


    Prince of Fire-Eaters

    David Kane ’58 noted this book review in the Wall Street Journal.

    “We stand upon the dark platform of southern slavery, and all we ask is to be allowed to keep it to ourselves.” So declared William Lowndes Yancey in 1860, speaking to a crowd in Wilmington, Del., on behalf of the pro-slavery National Democrats and their presidential candidate, John Breckinridge. Yancey went on: “Let us do that, and we will not let the negro insult you by coming here and marrying your daughters.”

    As a fellow secessionist later observed, Yancey was “a very eloquent & powerful speaker. But he is so fluent that he does not know when to stop.” Yancey is much less well known today than many other leaders of the Civil War period, but he was hardly a marginal figure. A lawyer, newspaper editor, U.S. congressman and,

    an Eph. Who knew?

    [L]ater, a Confederate diplomat and senator, he articulated the Southern cause with a startling force and clarity.

    Yancey’s speeches and writings suggest that, for the powerful minority of white Southerners determined to break up the Union, the Civil War was first and last about slavery, whatever the Confederacy’s defenders might say about states’ rights and unfair tariffs. Yancey compared Southern interests to a ship: “That ship is slavery; the cargo may be the tariff; we must preserve the ship or all go down together.” He delivered his most memorable words in a speech introducing Jefferson Davis, the new president of the Confederacy, to adoring throngs in Montgomery, Ala., in February 1861: “The man and the hour have met.”

    Now the subject and his biographer have met. Eric H. Walther’s authoritative “William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War” is the first biography of the great orator and “prince of fire-eaters” (as a Cincinnati Commercial newspaper reporter once called him) since 1892, and it is long overdue. As Mr. Walther’s title implies, Yancey (1814-63) helped spur the move to war. He and his political kin tried mightily to push, pull, cajole and coerce a majority of their fellow white Southerners into secession.

    It took 30 years, but they did it, and what listeners described as Yancey’s “sweet” and “musical” voice was one of the secessionists’ greatest tools. One auditor said of Yancey’s speeches that they were “seasoned with the salt of argument, the vinegar of sarcasm, the pepper of wit, and the genuine champagne of eloquence.” A reporter claimed that Yancey could have led a New Orleans audience into the Mississippi River.


    1) Unfortunately, neither Amazon nor the publisher’s homepage allow for on-line searches. Does anyone know if Yancey’s time at Williams is described in any detail? He was apparently a member of the class of 1833, but only stayed at Williams one year and never graduated. As noted by Scott McLemee, academic publishers should be doing a better job of reaching out more broadly to potential readers. If there were a lot of material on Williams in this book, I (and other EphBlog readers) might buy a copy.

    2) There is a great senior thesis to be written about Yancey’s youth in Troy and his time at Williams. Who will write it? As Richard Dunn explained, the best senior theses are written about discrete, contained topics that other people haven’t written about time and again. All else equal, a history thesis about a small but interesting aspect of Williams will be much better than one about the causes of World War I.

    3) And, on a personal note, today is David Kane’s ’58 birthday. Happy Birthday Dad!


    Winters ’95 to Planning Board

    I love the local politics of Williamstown.

    Controversy continues to dog the Selectmen’s decision two weeks ago not to reappoint Planning Board member Sarah Gardner.

    There have been numerous letters to local newspapers defending and berating the decision, and the issue was raised again at a standing-room only Selectmen’s meeting Monday night.

    Chairman Philip C. Guy opened the meeting by clarifying why the board decided not to renew Gardner’s appointment.

    “Her activism was not the issue,” Guy said, referring to Gardner’s sometimes controversial stance on development projects.

    The clarification is a response to Gardner’s claims that she was not reappointed because her viewpoints differed with several other members of the board. She had served on the board for five years.

    Her replacement is D. Chris Winters.

    I think that this is Chris Winters ’95, director of institutional research at Williams. He should blog about his experiences in local government.

    Fohlin ended the meeting on a light note. He announced that several Williams College students engaged in a contest to see who could accumulate the most parking tickets in one academic year. The winning student received 53 tickets and paid $765 in fines.

    Details please!


    Barnard News Roundup

    As a follow up to Jeff’s post on the departure of Baseball Coach Dave Barnard, here are some news stories. iBerkshires provides a reprint of the College’s press release. The Transcript interviewed Paul Morgan ’07.

    “(Barrale’s) [new baseball coach] a good guy and a nice guy,” Morgan said. “We weren’t really sure what was going to happen with the whole thing. We had heard a lot of rumors that Coach Barnard was not gonna be back. He definitely won a lot of games. We’re looking forward to playing under Coach Barrale, but we’re not going to forget about those last three years under Coach Barnard.

    “There’ll be some changes. Coach Barnard ran a pretty relaxed ship. I think Coach Barrale will not be quite as lenient about some things. It’ll be different, but it’ll be good. He’s a good motivator and he can teach the game.”

    When did those rumors start? I never heard them. Barnard, after all, is tenured. Has the College ever fired a tenured faculty member, athletic or otherwise? Not that I know of. If Barnard did resign, then I would expect the College to say so in its press release. Consider the example of women’s ice hockey.

    Williams College Athletic Director Harry Sheehy has announced that women’s ice hockey assistant coach Michelyne Pinard will serve as the Ephs’ interim head coach this academic year due to the departure of Neil Sinclair.

    Sinclair recently left Williams to become the head coach of men’s ice hockey at Skidmore College.

    This will be Pinard’s fourth year with the Williams women’s ice hockey team. She also serves the College as the head coach of women’s soccer and as an instructor in physical education.

    Note two things. First, the College reports when coaches resign and, graciously, notes where they are going. The fact that no news about Barnard has come out tells us something. Second, in the case of hockey, the College was happy to name an interim coach (the current assistant) and then, a year later (and after an extensive search) name a new (different) permanent head coach. With baseball, the College moved much more quickly. Interesting.

    (Note that the hockey situation is not a good parallel since Pinard was already the womens soccer coach and was, presumably, never a candidate to be the permanent hockey coach as well.)

    The Eagle article, “Ephs’ Barnard out as baseball coach,” gets the important news in the headline but reporter Howard Herman is not able (yet?) to get more information from the College.

    The Williams College athletic department has made some additions to its coaching staff. But it’s a subtraction that’s in the spotlight.

    Bill Barrale has replaced Dave Barnard as head coach. Barnard leaves Williams after 13 seasons and a school-record 305 wins.

    The release from the school did not say if Barnard resigned or was let go, and Williams athletic director Harry Sheehy could not be reached for comment.

    I wonder if Herman will keep working on this story. I put a call into Harry Sheehy yesterday to try to set up an interview. I suspect that there is much surrounding Barnard’s departure that he will not be able to discuss, but he should be willing to answer questions about the new baseball coach and the future direction of the program.



    Voting? Yes. Democracy? Not at all.

    Do the battles at Dartmouth (also available here) over trustee elections have any relevance to Williams?

    Now those passions for the Ivy League institution have it embroiled in a new and bitter battle over its board, this time pitting alumni critical of the college against loyalists who have risen through the ranks of the Alumni Association.

    The fracas has drawn the attention of conservative bloggers and publications all over the country.

    It began when candidates for the governing board of trustees endorsed by the Alumni Association were unexpectedly defeated two years in a row by outsiders who got on the ballot by petition. The outsiders accused the college administration of sacrificing free speech to political correctness and of abandoning Dartmouth’s historical focus on undergraduates to turn it into a “junior varsity Harvard.”

    Currently, such a dispute is irrelevant for Williams since outsiders have no way of appearing on the ballot. If the nominating committee doesn’t pick you, then it doesn’t matter if 90% of the alumni would vote for you. And who picks the nominating committee? The permanent staff of the Society of Alumni. Outsiders and troublemakers need not apply. (For the record, I have applied to both the nominating committee and the Executive Committee (which is chosen by the nominating committee) this year. We will see what happens.) More excerpts and comments below.

    Read more


    Reunion Pictures

    Lots of great reunion pictures at SmugMug. Kudos to the Society of Alumni for making these photos available. If I (and my EphBlog co-authors!) weren’t so lazy, we would pick out the best pictures and post them here.

    It was only two years that seeing reunion photos required a stupid registration with some idiotic company (which, to this day, continues to spam me). Wonder how much the College paid for that service?

    In any event, it is good to see SoA taking advice from EphBlog. We are here to help! Really.


    Smedley’s Height

    Laura Lim Prescott ’92 got a fun birthday gift.

    Since receiving this wonderful gift [a century-old map of Williams], I have been comparing the 1889 map with the current map of the college. I sort of wish that I had my old 1988 map of the campus so that I could see how much had changed since my residence in Williamstown. Some interesting things I discovered: The Congregation Church (at right) looked very different from the beautiful church that I admired every day, large building called “The Graylock” is located at the future site of the Graylock Quad, and Mark Hopkins lived in an area near Mission Park–not in the current President’s house. Also, the mountain that I know as Pine Cobble seems to be labeled Smedley’s Height. Or maybe I’m not looking at the map properly and Pine Cobble is Hudson’s Height. Either way, it has the wrong name.

    What is the history of the name of the place that we know of as Pine Cobble? And how can “Pine Cobble” not have an entry in Willipedia?


    New Baseball Coach

    Bill Barrale is the new Eph baseball coach. This article oddly fails to mention what became of Dave Barnard, the previous, very successful (but controversial — see numerous posts on this site) head coach. Anyone know the story? I wonder if there is any relation to Barnard’s philosophy on admissions, or if this is just a retirement after a long career?


    Older Posts »